Lord Mountjoy Negotiates at Derry

From Derry and Enniskillen in the Year 1689 by Thomas Witherow

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CHAPTER II....continued

Upon the day after organizing the city companies (Tuesday, the 11th of December), Mr. Cairns set out for England, to procure, if possible, a supply of arms and ammunition for the citizens, and to explain how matters stood to the Irish Society, who, as their landlords and friends, took, as they knew, an intelligent and warm interest in their favour.[22]

When tidings reached Dublin that the gates had been shut against the King's troops, the Lord-Deputy was very much enraged;—burned his wig in his fury, as his manner was, and gave instant orders that Lord Mountjoy and Colonel Lundy, with six companies of their regiment, should instantly go down and reduce the refractory citizens to order. So soon as this was known at Derry, the inhabitants drew up and published a Declaration, in which they described the circumstances under which the act of the 7th of December had been committed, and stated that, while persevering in their duty and loyalty to King James, they were, nevertheless, determined to allow no Papist soldiers to quarter in the city. As yet, it will be observed, they had not declared for the Prince of Orange;—they were not averse from the troops of King James, provided only that they were Protestants; and they were most unwilling that their recent action should be interpreted so as to wear the appearance of disloyalty and rebellion. They were anxious that all should know that it was done from motives of self-preservation only. It was at an after stage that they identified themselves with the cause of the Prince, and assumed the attitude of avowed opposition to King James.[23]

Lord Mountjoy was one of the Protestant officers who had not yet been dismissed from the King's service, and he was naturally unwilling to proceed to extremities against his coreligionists, at least until all hope of a peaceful solution of the difficulty would be over. When he reached Omagh, he put himself into communication with the city, and ascertained that the citizens were disposed to come to terms. In their present circumstances, indeed, nothing else was possible, even if they had been bent on war. There were only two barrels of powder in the magazine, there was no store of provisions in the town, and it was as yet uncertain whether the Prince of Orange could keep his ground in England, and still more so when he could send relief.[24] After some negotiations, for the better management of which Lord Mountjoy came to Derry, it was finally agreed, in substance, that Mountjoy, on his part, was to obtain from His Excellency Lord Tyrconnel a free pardon for all who had been concerned in shutting the gates, and that the city was to admit two companies of Mountjoy's regiment, all of them being Protestants, and that the town companies lately formed should retain their arms, and do duty with the others.[25]

Had the worthy mayor and sheriff known that at the very time they were signing this treaty with Mountjoy, acting on behalf of Tyrconnel, the Prince of Orange was in St. James's Palace and the King a prisoner at Rochester, they would not have been, perhaps, so careful to absolve themselves and their fellow-citizens from all "tincture of rebellion" against James.

In conformity to the agreement, two companies of Mountjoy's regiment, under command of Lieut.-Colonel Lundy, a Scottish Episcopalian [26] from the neighbourhood of Dumbarton, were admitted within the walls. The other companies of the regiment, in which there was a portion of Roman Catholics, were quartered about Strabane, Newtownstewart, and Raphoe. It was thus that Lundy came to be military governor of the city. The citizens were so well satisfied with the honesty and good faith of the Lord Mountjoy, notwithstanding that in the whole transaction he acted simply as the agent of Tyrconnel and King James (in both of whom, as the issue proved, he had a little too much confidence), that they resigned into his hands the charge of the city, and agreed to follow his orders. Now that the place was in the King's possession, his lordship suggested that means should be taken to put it in a better state of defence, for affairs were in a critical condition, and civil war might at any moment break out. In accordance with this suggestion, various gentlemen within and without the city contributed liberally for that purpose.

When Mountjoy reached Dublin, after having settled matters in the North, it was known there that the Prince of Orange, amid the acclamations of the people, had entered London, that all hope of resistance to him in England was at an end, and that King James had escaped to France. Tyrconnel, who was secretly determined to get Mountjoy out of the way, professed to be profoundly affected with the news, talked of the utter ruin that would ensue if Ireland should have to enter into war with England at the present moment, and proposed that Mountjoy and Chief Baron Rice should proceed to France to lay the state of matters before the King, and, if possible, to obtain his concurrence for making terms with the Prince of Orange. He wished it to be believed that he himself would willingly surrender his government, provided it could be done with his master's consent. To gain this consent was the professed object of his sending the deputation to France. At first Mountjoy scrupled to undertake such a mission, but eventually consented. Before leaving, he submitted to the Lord-Deputy the following proposals for maintaining the peace of the kingdom:—

"January 10th, 1688-9.

"Until His Majesty's pleasure be further known, it is humbly proposed to Your Excellency:—

"1st. That no more levies be made in this kingdom, no more arms given out, nor no commissions signed.

"2nd. That all the new raised forces be kept in their present quarters (if no enemy lands here, and that the kingdom is quiet), and that no more troops be commanded into Ulster than are at present there.

"3rd. That no nobleman, gentleman, officer, or common man in the kingdom, shall be imprisoned, seized, or in any wise molested for any tumultuous meetings, arming of men, forming of troops, or attempting anything that may be called riotous or rebellious, before this present day.

"4th. That no private gentleman's house shall be made a garrison, or soldiers quartered in it."

Tyrconnel pledged his word and honour that these proposals should be strictly carried out; and Mount-joy forthwith intimated his proposals and the concurrence of His Excellency in a letter, which he transmitted to the North:—

"Dublin, January 10th, '88-9.

"You have had an account of how long I stopped on the way after I left you, and the reasons which made me since come forward; and whatever my jealousies were at my arrival, I am now fully satisfied with my coming, and, with God's blessing, hope it will come to good to us all. As soon as I saw my Lord-Deputy, he told me he intended to send me to the King, jointly with the Lord Chief Baron, to lay before him the state of the kingdom, and to tell him, if he pleased, he would ruin it for him, and make it a heap of rubbish; but it was impossible to preserve and make it of use to him; and therefore to desire his leave to treat for it. The objections I made to this were two—my not being so well qualified for this as another Roman Catholic, one to whom, in all likelihood, the King would sooner give credit; and the improbability of being able to persuade the King, who is now in the French hands, to a thing that is so plainly against their interest. To the first of these I was answered what is not fit for me to repeat; and the other was so well answered that all the most knowing Englishmen here are satisfied with it, and have desired me to undertake this matter, which I have done this afternoon; my Lord-Deputy having first promised upon his word and honour to perform the four particulars in the enclosed paper. Now, because a thing of this nature cannot be done without being censured by some, who perhaps would be sorry to have their wishes by quiet means, and by others who think that all that statesmen do are tricks, and that there is no sincerity among them, I would have such consider that it is more probable I, and the most intelligent men in this place, without whose advice I do nothing, should judge righter of this than they who are at a greater distance, and it is not likely we should be fooled; so I hope they will not believe we design to betray them, ourselves, and our nation. I am morally assured this must do our work, without blood, or the misery of the kingdom. I am sure it is the way proposed in England, who depend so on it, that no forces are appointed to come hither; and I am sure what I do is not only what will be approved of in England, but what has its beginning from thence. I do therefore conjure you to give your friends and mine this account, and for the love of God keep them from any disorder or mischief, if any had such a design, which I hope they had not. I shall write to this effect to some other parts, and I desire you would let such in your county as you think fit see this. Let the people fall to their labour, and think themselves in less danger than they believed."[27]

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[22] See Appendix, No. 1.

[23] See Appendix, No. 2.

[24] Walker, p. 13.

[25] See Appendix, No. 3.

[26] Proof of this in Gillespie, p. 72.

[27] Mackenzie, Nar., p. 9; King, App., No. 13; Harris, App. xxvi.

William R. Young’s Fighters of Derry has for decades been one of the most overlooked works on the Siege of Derry and as a local genealogical resource. First published in 1932, the book was the product of ten years’ research into identifying participants at the siege which the author undertook when suffering from ill-health in the latter part of his life.

The book is essentially divided into two parts: the first contains 1660 biographical entries relating to the defenders of Derry, tracing, where possible, the family lineage; and the second part includes 352 entries on the Jacobite side. Apart from individual accounts of eminent protagonists in the siege, such as David Cairnes, Rev. George Walker, the Duke of Schomberg, Patrick Sarsfield, etc., there is also background given to many of the most influential families involved in the conflict.